Commitment to the Process

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When you’re competitive and all you want to do is win and NOW, staying committed to the process can be tough. Inevitably you will have ups and downs. It is after the disappointments that this commitment is hard, obviously. The impulse to scrap everything and start over because “apparently everything you’ve been doing is wrong” seems very logical while seeing red, but it is something I’m trying to be consciously better about.  If I look at what I believe will be the period of time between when Alix and I started our journey and when we will get to our destination, it doesn’t make sense to train one way with one intention in mind for a little while and then switch it because of an unsatisfactory result. It’s denying my outcome oriented mind in favor of the more logical and self-serving process oriented method. Fake it til you make it right??

Like I said, I want to win yesterday already, which is appropriate considering our tournament in the Hague last week. I love this tournament. It’s in an amazing city, we stay in a cute hotel with a great breakfast, in the city center, get to wear warm cozy clothes to and from the venue. The venue is STATE OF THE ART, it’s heated, the sand is great, center court feels like you’re at a concert, and if all that wasn’t enough, it has working toilets and warm showers for when we’re done competing! (it’s the little things!) AND it’s over New Year’s, and in the Netherlands THEY GO FOR IT. We may not participate (too busy taking shelter), but their firework policy is absolutely nuts. I won’t even attempt to describe it, but you should really check out this video, promise it’s worth it-  How to Survive Dutch New Year’s Eve

So anyway, despite all the amazingness surrounding this event, the fact that we had a mediocre ending has definitely left me with a bad taste in my mouth. We ended up in fourth place, which, even though it’s better than any place below it (and had we gotten one of those finishes I might be wishing for a fourth), it’s not a fun result. In the semis we drew a young good Brazilian team that we beat in the finals of our last tournament in China, but we weren’t crisp enough down the stretch to pull it out despite being up a few points at both technical timeouts. Ok ok, now you gotta get over it, get fired up again, and play the bronze medal match. Some teams pooh-pooh the bronze medal match, but that was never an option for us, we knew the importance of the match and for many reasons really wanted to win. 

We convincingly won the first set, probably with our serving to passing ratio. One thing you should know about indoor beach volleyball (and this is with the Mikasa ball) is you are able to serve the crap out of the ball and it can drop on a dime for no reason, it requires a sharply increased reaction time compared to outdoor beach. I would bet there were more aces in this tournament than any other tournament all last season. In the first set against the Finnish that worked in our favor. We were able to fight off their serves and we got more aces than they did. I have to think they realized that, because they then stepped up their serving and passing game and outdid us in that category for the rest of the match, and it showed. 

There are a lot of factors involved in those two losses, some will not be an issue again until the next indoor beach tournament (The Hague is the only one as of now), some just come and go as is natural in sport, and some were completely under our control.  Some had to do with preparation, some with our mental approach- not necessarily bad, but maybe wrong. Either way, wether I can control what went wrong or not, one thing is for sure: I’m extremely motivated to move forward, fix what went wrong, and make sure the next time we have a chance to medal we take it. There’s just something different about the motivation inspired by a loss versus a win, no matter how hard you try to maintain it after the latter.

So the challenge now is how do we stick to the long term plan, trust the process, and still fix what we feel went wrong? 

Find perspective– Look at the timeline from where you started to where you want to go as a linear line in your mind. It’s probably decently long, if not never-ending. How much importance do you want to assign what happened during a blip on this timeline? How crucial was it really? If say, your New Years resolution was to eat healthier, but you end up going HAM on left over Christmas cookies one night, how detrimental is that really to your end goal? If you jump right back on the wagon believing you haven’t sabotaged your end goal, you’re going to be in much better shape. 

Trust the people we have put around us– We have a lot of people helping us, and to come back and say, “nothing we were doing worked! We need to completely change our training!” (which I have done before to my chagrin) What is the point of working with these people? We should feel comfortable asking for small adjustments, but if the long term plan has been mindfully created, regardless of short term outcomes along the way, we need to trust the effort these people have put into our goals and the process of getting there.

Study, study, study– The best way to fix what you feel went wrong while sticking with the plan and trusting the process is to watch video of yourself and learn from your mistakes! Not everything is a result of bad technique or lack of preparation, etc. Maybe you will notice something that in the end is really easy to correct, maybe it’s as simple as changing one of your cues. Also I find that by studying others it gives me ideas of things I can try within our training, without changing basic strategy, that may help me improve. Outside of volleyball this can be translated into ‘knowledge is power’.  Research what you’re trying to get better at, the more we know about how to get to our goals, the more tools we will gain to help us get there.

Practice acceptance– Most of us competitive perfectionists beat ourselves up after losses or bad performances. This can serve a purpose, but only if it can then quickly be overcome. I find it extremely helpful when I am critiquing myself to take notes. In the moment I’m hyper aware of what made me uncomfortable, what I feel like I need to get better at, and my mentality during the performance that maybe I want to improve upon.  If I take notes immediately so I know I won’t forget, I find it is much easier to let it go.  After I decompress and we start working on our training plan, I can objectively go back to my notes and reevaluate them. I can then decide what ultimately fits in with the long term plan and will actually help us get better versus something that may have been situational and out of my control.

Meditation will also help with the acceptance of our imperfect selves. My favorite part of the practice is to surround all thoughts that may float through my mind uninvited during meditation with a flood of acceptance. Some thoughts are harder to do this with than others, but with effort and consistency this really works. 

None of this is easy, but if we can manage to avoid overreacting to our shortcomings, and maintain focus on our strengths, loving ourselves in the process, it will help us trust the process and stick with it. So this is my task moving forward, I’m three quarters of the way there and writing this blog definitely helped me work through my feelings and create a game plan for next time. That’s part of why I want to maintain this blog, it’s as much for me as it is for you. I hope you also found it helpful! And know that even if you’ve had a rough start with your resolutions, be understanding with yourself and know that there will be a learning curve, but if you stay committed to the process you will get there!

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